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Hatsumode at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto: Video Introduction

This video, titled "Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto - The Head Shrine of the 12,000 Tenmangu Shrines in Japan, Dedicated to Sugawara No Michizane, the God of Learning [No. 055]' (京都 初詣 北野天満宮 〜 学問の神様菅原道真公をお祀りする全国12000ある天満宮の総本社、楼門に掲げられた巨大絵馬でご開運を![No.055]), was uploaded by "QUICK GLANCE KYOTO."

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is located in Kamigyo, Kyoto, in Japan's Kansai Region, and is known as the god of learning. Several statues of oxen, which are known to serve as messengers of the god, are located within the shrine precincts. The shrine is also known as one of the most crowded shrines in Kyoto for Hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the New Year).
The huge ema (wooden prayer plaque) displayed at the gate is very popular, and some visitors come to the shrine for Hatsumode just to see it.

Other highlights of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine include Sankomon Gate, the shrine repository, and the main shrine, which is designated as a National Treasure. Be sure to check out the video of Hatsumode at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine before reading along.

Background Information for Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Image of an ox statue at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Photo:An ox statue at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Tenmangu shrines are located throughout Japan and are known as gods of learning to which students pray for success in entrance examinations. The head shrine, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, was built in the Heian period (794-1185 A.D.) and is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane.

The beautiful main shrine building was donated to the shrine by Toyotomi Hideyori and is designated as a National Treasure. Ishi no Ma, one of the halls at the shrine, and the statues of the fierce gods can be seen during special public viewing periods.

The most distinctive feature of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is the 10 plus statues of oxen that can be seen throughout the shrine. They are believed to be messengers of the god Sugawara no Michizane, who was born on the year of the Ox. It's said that touching the oxen and patting their heads will make you smarter, and petting their bodies will cure illnesses and injuries.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is also said to bring blessings for the arts and culture and ward off bad luck among other things. At Fudehajime-sai, an event held in the precincts of the shrine, visitors write a kanji on a large sheet of paper with a brush to pray for success in their entrance exams. The shrine also sells shuin stamps bearing plums (the shrine crest), and good luck charms popular among students preparing for entrance exams can be obtained at the shrine office.

Also, on the 25th of every month, there's a fair called Tenjin Ichi where shops selling antiques and household goods, as well as food stalls, line the temple grounds, attracting both local Kyoto residents and tourists.

Hatsumode at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine – Information on Crowding and Parking!

Image of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto
Photo:Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto ※Photo taken in 2019

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is also known as a popular shrine for Hatsumode. On the three days of the Japanese New Year, before the coronavirus pandemic, approximately 500,000 people would visit the shrine, making it the third most visited shrine in Kyoto after Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine and Yasaka Shrine.

Therefore, New Year's is expected to be very crowded. During the first three days of the new year, New Year's Day in particular attracts a large number of visitors, so be sure to keep this in mind when visiting.

Visiting hours are from New Year's Eve to 9:30 p.m. on New Year's Day, from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the 2nd, and from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the 3rd. Please refer to this information if you're planning to visit Kitano Tenmangu Shrine for Hatsumode.

There are long lines everywhere in the precincts of the shrine, but if there's one thing we recommend seeing when visiting the shrine, it's the giant ema plaque. The giant ema with the year's zodiac sign written on it hangs at Romon Gate. It's a popular photo spot on New Year's, so be sure to take a picture to commemorate your visit.
Parking is available at the shrine, but since it can be quite crowded during Hatsumode and there will be traffic restrictions in the area, it's recommended that visitors use public transportation.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine – Plum Blossoms, Autumn Leaves, and Other Seasonal Attractions!

Image of autumn leaves at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto
Photo:Autumn leaves at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is also a sightseeing spot where beautiful plum blossoms and autumn leaves can be seen in different seasons.
As Sugawara Michizane loved plums, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is also famous for its plum garden. The Hana no Niwa plum garden on the grounds of the shrine is home to 1,500 plum trees of different varieties and is associated with Sugawara Michizane. Admission is 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for children, and tea cakes are available in the garden. The best time to view the plum blossoms is from mid-January to mid-March, so be sure to stop if you're visiting Kyoto in the spring.

In the fall, visitors can enjoy a beautiful view of the main shrine, a National Treasure, and its 350 colored maple trees from the maple garden in the Odoi (an earthen fortification built by the famous warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi). The entrance fee is the same as that for the plum garden, and the beautiful scenery is popular amongst photographers and instagrammers.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a shrine full of attractions: Hatsumode, plum blossoms in early spring, fresh greenery in summer, and autumn leaves in fall, and more. You can come to the shrine to pray for academic success as well as to visit it as a sightseeing spot in Kyoto!

Summary of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is very crowded during Hatsumode, and visits may take more than two hours. Be sure to take into consideration the time of year and your schedule before visiting the shrine. When visiting Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, we recommend that you stop by the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine teahouse for some tasty Chogoro mochi rice cakes as well. The refined Chogoro mochi, which was served at the Kitano Grand Tea Ceremony held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is an elegant Japanese confectionary with a thin rice cake skin and red bean paste. Definitely give it a try.
It is expected to be very crowded, but why don't you go to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine at the beginning of this year and have a wonderful year with the benefit of Sugako?

◆Kitano Tenmangu Shrine◆
【Address】Bakurocho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-8386
【Parking】Available (For shrine visitors only) ※Parking is prohibited on the 25th of each month due to an event.
Public Transportation:
A short walk from the Kitano Tenmangu-mae bus stop on routes 50 and 101 of the city bus from JR Kyoto Station.
A 5-minute walk from Kitano Hakubai-cho Station on the Keifuku Line.
※For other directions, please see the official website.

【Official Website】Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

【TripAdvisor】Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 21, 2022
平敷 篤(Atsushi Heishiki)
My name is Atsushi Heishiki, a writer who loves Japanese culture and lives in Okinawa.
Hatsumode at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto – Pray for a Safe and Successful Year! Experience the Atmosphere of Kyoto During the Year-End and New Year Holidays in Japan!
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